On Dec. 16, President Obama signed U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler's bill, the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act (BABES Act), into law. The bill directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to notify air carriers, TSA security screening personnel, and private security screening personnel of TSA's 3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exemption guidelines allowing baby formula, breast milk, purified deionized water for infants, and juice on airlines; and include training on all special screening procedures for TSA security screening personnel and private security screening personnel.
Megan Amelio, of Romance & Leisure Travel had not heard about this law before, but as a travel agent and a newer mom, she loves it.
"I have gone through TSA twice with my son as an infant and let me tell you, it is challenging as far as getting everything on the security belt and then having to wait (for who knows how long) for TSA to test the formula, food or infant water I brought," she said. "I understand they have to take security measures, but the system is a little slow. They never gave me a hard time or have taken anything away from me so I'm one of the lucky ones."
Wendy Dall, That Travel Lady, said that this is definitely a step in the right direction for parents. "Unfortunately the education of TSA staff will make this a slow process until they are trained in what to look for and what to allow onboard," said Dall.
Greg Antonelle, managing director of MickeyTravels, LLC said that his clients haven't really talked about the bill, but he has had moms express concerns about flying with their babies.
"It's usually a mom trying to ease concerns; specifically her transporting breast milk or baby formula because she's heard varying stories on the subject from friend, co-workers, etc.," said Antonelle. "The reality is, moms traveling with babies often have a lot of anxiety as it is (will the baby cry, how will it handle the air pressure/turbulence, will it disturb other passengers, etc.), so the BABES act being signed into law should hopefully ease some of that anxiety."
It's a step in the right direction, but travel agents would like to see other mom-friendly changes happen as well so that it becomes easier to travel with young children.
"For babies under one year, a parent should be able to board earlier than others to get situated and then maybe have an area on airplanes that is breastfeeding friendly," said Lisa Forbell, president of The Travel Expert. "I have noticed in airports that stations are popping up, but it should become mandatory at every airport."
Forbell knows all-too-well the trials and tribulations that parents experience while traveling. "I will never forget traveling with my son and trying install the infant seat," she said. "No one would help me, as per the airline, and then trying to navigate carrying the car seat, pushing a stroller with baby, carrying a diaper bag and carry on. So frustrating."
Amelio said that allowing the infant or toddler to stay in the stroller while going through the metal detector would be helpful. "I don't know how this would work without the metal detector going off, but it would be easier than having to manage folding the stroller and getting it on the belt all while holding your baby," she said. "It's not an easy task with no help, especially if you're traveling alone."
She also suggests that airports have a play area for kids so they can run off some energy before getting on the plane. "My son just runs up and down the hallway, but I feel uneasy about that because of all the people trying to hurry to get to their gate," she said. "I don't think it will ever be easy to travel with kids because they require so much baggage, but any little improvement definitely helps."
Ashley Metesh-McCoy of Kinship Vacations has traveled many times with her young child. "I don't understand why airlines are not required to provide at least one changing table per aircraft and ensure that families with young children are seated together," she said. "These are common-sense safety (and health) precautions that should be enacted."
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